Fox hunting: Parliament has ‘better things to do’ than repeal Act

Parliament has “better things to be concerned with” than the government’s pledge to hold a vote on repealing the Hunting Act, the sports minister says.

fox stretching

Tracey Crouch said fox hunting was a “pursuit from the past” and should be “consigned to history”.

The act, passed by the Blair government in 2004, says foxes cannot be killed by dogs in hunts in England and Wales.

A survey for the Countryside Alliance has suggested about 250,000 people will go to a hunt on Boxing Day.

Tim Bonner, chief executive of the pro-hunting alliance, said the act was never about hunting, foxes or wildlife management, rather it was a “great political totem”.

The Conservative Party’s 2015 general election manifesto promised to “give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time”.

An attempt to relax the law was abandoned earlier this year after the SNP signalled they would vote against it, rather than abstain as they traditionally do on matters that do not affect Scotland.

The government has since calculated it would be unlikely to win.
The changes would have brought the Hunting Act in line with Scotland, where an unlimited number of dogs can be used to “flush out” a fox to be shot, compared to just two in England and Wales.

Ms Crouch, a patron of the Conservatives Against Fox Hunting group, known as Blue Fox, said: “Fox hunting is a pursuit from the past and like the overwhelming majority of the population I believe that is where it should stay, consigned to history.

“I believe that the legislation as it stands today requires better enforcement, and Parliament has better things to be concerned with than bringing back hunting foxes with hounds.”

The law governing hunting with dogs

In England and Wales, you cannot use dogs to hunt foxes, hares or deer.

You can use dogs for:

  • stalking and flushing out – but only to control pests, such as hares, and only if they’re shot as soon as possible afterwards. Only one or two dogs can be used to “flush out” a fox
  • hunting rats and rabbits
  • retrieving hares that have been shot
  • drag hunting and trail hunting

In Scotland, hunts can use an unlimited number of dogs to flush out foxes.

A League Against Cruel Sports survey, conducted by Ipsos MORI, found 83% of 2,036 respondents thought the ban should remain in place – 84% in rural areas and 82% in urban areas.

Director of campaigns Tom Quinn said opposition to legalising fox hunting with dogs was “higher than it has ever been”.

“We believe this reflects that as a nation the vast majority of us are repulsed at the thought of killing animals for sport,” he said.

But Tim Bonner, of the Countryside Alliance, said the Hunting Act was “in tatters”.

“After 11 years of the act, support for hunts is as strong as ever and the Hunting Act is mostly being used to prosecute poaching offences,” he said.

The amendments put forward in July would have allowed practical management of fox populations, especially in the Uplands where foxes were a significant problem for sheep farmers, he told BBC radio 4’s Today programme.

Ian Blackford, the SNP MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, said his party did not believe there was broad popular support for fox hunting so he and his fellow MPs had planned to exercise their vote in that way.

Kerry McCarthy, Labour’s shadow secretary for environment, food and rural affairs, urged the prime minister not to “sneak” hunting back onto the parliamentary agenda when it was “absolutely clear” the public did not want to see it return.

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